Sunday, October 27, 2013

Agility obstacles update

I managed to switch classes to a better time (afternoon rather than 7:30 am), and we've attended the new time slot twice. All the new dogs meant that Cai spent a lot of time barking during the first class. I stayed close to his crate and gave lots of treats when the other dogs were in his field of vision. During the second class he was much better, but he's still quite reactive to the other small dogs, because he really wants to play with them.

Updates on obstacle training progress:

About a month ago he suddenly developed a fear of climbing up the contact obstacles. I have no idea what caused it. I switched to rewarding him for climbing up however high he felt comfortable, and then cuing him to go back down and do his contact (lie down on mat on floor). Last class, he finally was back to normal on the dog walk and a-frame. I was even able to take away the mat and cue the down verbally (and by turning toward him), and he confidently lay down. We didn't do the teeter that day, and we still have to finish up his basic training for it. I really wish that they let students rent the space for private practice.

Speaking of contact obstacles, I'd trained Cai to do a table at home but we hadn't used it in eight months of classes, until last week. No problem hopping onto it and lying down. I trained the down to be consistent with other obstacles, and make sure that he really stays on it during fast, exciting runs. I don't know yet which venues we'll be competing in.

Other obstacles that are new for us: last class Cai saw the chute for the second time ever. The first time, the instructor had held the end of the fabric open and lowered it with each pass. This time, she held it slightly open for one pass, then left it on the ground. Cai went in, backed out, and ran around. She showed him a high value treat on the ground right at the end of the fabric, and I picked him up and put him back at the entrance. This time he went all the way through, though he slowed down and was moving his head in confusion in the middle. I gave him a jackpot - a steady stream of high value treats with lots of praise. The third time he didn't slow down as much, got another jackpot, and then after that he was happily running through. Yay!

The tire is still new and we haven't had enough practice with it for me to properly "explain" to him not to go under the tire/chains. We got around this problem in class by lowering it all the way to the ground, and then he would consistently jump through the tire. However, once again I need extra time to practice on the obstacles on my own so that I can make sure he understands the criteria.

He's only seen the broad jump a handful of times and is still figuring out that it's a jump. Other jumps are almost never a problem. He's just under 12 inches tall and jumping 8 inches, so he soars over the bars. Doubles and triples are not a problem because of that.

His weave poles have gotten worse. For a while he was reliable on six poles if I didn't move too quickly, and I was working on proofing them. Lately he's been skipping the middle poles in class. It's not always the same poles, and I think that it's a problem with getting his stride and concentrating on his job. We're working on it at home as well as we can.

His focus is very good when we're running -- he enjoys the game! It's rare for him to stop running and sniff something or look around, unless there's a sudden big distraction. He does want to sniff and look around while I'm setting him up at the start line, though.

He is now quiet in his crate even if I walk out of sight, aside from the dog reactivity. That makes me very happy!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Agility 6.6 summary

Yesterday was the last day of the official Beginners Series at Ace Dog Sports. Wow! But classes are continuing. The students mostly stick to their same time slot and continue to progress as a team, though I'm switching days. Besides continuing to finesse our handling, we still need lots of work on the teeter and dog walk and weaves, and we've barely practiced the chute, tire, or table.

I just skimmed back through our older agility posts. Gosh, Chimera has learned SO much! The older posts discussed problems with getting Cai to drive ahead, with lateral distance to jumps, and with rear crosses. We've mostly got those down now, though I'd still like more distance in our handling. Yesterday I was thinking of other areas we really need to work on:

He turns wide if he's approaching an obstacle (such as a jump) at speed and then needs to collect. We need cik/cap, in other words. I know just a bit about how Silvia Trkman teaches this. Today we did a session working on multi-wraps (circling around an object multiple times) with a flower pot. I can already send him to circle an object from a distance, but he hugs the first side then goes wide on the turn back to me. So I need to build more muscle memory for the tight turns before I go back to sends. When he can do it on the flat, we'll start practicing with jumps.

He sometimes blind crosses if I put on speed and look ahead. I need him to stick to the proper side when I gun it so that we can be competitive. Part of this is the wide turning problem.

As mentioned, more lateral distance, and more distance when sending ahead, especially to a tunnel (see below). I'm trying to arrange some private space rental time so that we can work on this, as I don't have anywhere else with the required distance.

Something amusing that happened in class: we were working on a tunnel/a-frame discrimination, setting a line to send to the tunnel. Cai sometimes has trouble with sends to a tunnel - he stops and looks at me, or goes into the tunnel but immediately turns and comes back out. I think it's because he doesn't want to lose "contact" with me; he particularly has trouble if he hears me moving away after he's gone in. In this case, because I was having to stop a bit early to not run into the a-frame, he would also stop and look at me. The instructor suggested, "Use your tunnel cue." I rarely use verbal cues, and I haven't made any effort to teach Cai the word "tunnel," though I've used it on course here and there. I said, "I don't think he knows it, but I'll try." I did the send again, this time saying, "tunnel!" And Cai went right in, like "why didn't you say so?" The other students laughed. Honestly I think that it's just because I said something, rather than actually associating the word "tunnel" with the obstacle, but we did the drill two more times and each time he moved ahead and went in when I called the cue!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sleeping on the bed

Chimera got to spend the night on the bed with me for the first time last night. He had previously always slept in a crate, because I didn't trust him not to potty or chew something up during the night. I'm a heavy sleeper. But last night, I was reading before bedtime, and he was falling asleep next to me, and I had the feeling that it was a good night to try it. He was tired and seemed like he would sleep through the night on the bed. And he did. He moved from place to place on the bed, but he never left it. In the morning he went outside and peed and pooped. I was a proud momma. And it felt wonderful to feel him curled up next to me here and there. He slept mostly against my back or near my head. What a sweetie. That said, he'll still mostly be sleeping in his crate, unless on another evening I have the feeling that the time is right again.

I took Cai along when I stopped by Pollinate, a local urban farming store, a few days ago. There was no one else in the store besides the owner and my friend. Cai pulled a lot to sniff, but otherwise was well behaved. Good boy.